Q: I’m considering leaving my current employer and starting a career in legal consulting. Any tips or career advice I should keep in mind before venturing out on my own?
A: From wanting to be your own boss to a desire for a less stressful work environment, several factors might persuade you to pursue a non-traditional legal career path, such as consulting. There is healthy demand for independent legal contractors, and consulting offers undeniable lifestyle and professional benefits. When determining whether becoming a consultant is the best next step for you, however, you will want to keep several pieces of career advice in mind.
Are you ready to be an entrepreneur?
For many workers, one of the biggest advantages of independent consulting in the legal profession is setting your own hours and determining what assignments you take on. However, some people find this lack of structure to be uncomfortable and too demanding. A legal consultant is a one-person business and requires a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Working with a staffing firm that specializes in placing legal professionals is the easiest way to start your career as a legal consultant, as the agency can help you with marketing and networking.
Additionally, your workload will fluctuate greatly in both type and intensity. With each new project will come fresh, exciting challenges — ideal for individuals who thrive on change. But if you find comfort in having a regular work routine, consulting may not be the best path for you in the legal profession.
A few tips before you venture out on your own…
Even if you’re ready to take the plunge, remember: A savvy entrepreneur knows the importance of having a good business plan in place before the grand opening. Here’s some career advice as you plan your future as a legal consultant:
- Don’t quit your current job right away. Becoming a legal consultant takes careful planning, and you won’t be getting paid until you land your first assignment. In fact, your rainy day fund may take an initial hit. Take some time to build your network (both online and off), set up a website for your consulting practice and create an online presence that establishes you as an expert in your field.
- Find a niche area. There are many potential clients available, but there’s also plenty of competition. Since you can’t possibly cover the range of legal specialties and still do a good job, emphasize your strongest points. Do you have a background in healthcare or computer forensics? Do you have an exceptional amount of experience with eDiscovery or mergers and acquisitions? Firms and organizations are looking for legal consultants with specialized skills, so identify yours — and market them — before you target potential clients.
- Fill breaks with continuing legal education. As a consultant, you’ll inevitably have gaps between projects. Take advantage of that down time and enroll in courses to deepen your knowledge and brush up on skills. Doing so will also add a few more desirable credentials to your resume, which will make you even more appealing to potential clients.
Venturing out on your own as an independent legal consultant is exciting, but it’s also risky. With proper planning and an entrepreneurial attitude, you can take charge of your career and establish yourself as an expert in the legal profession.
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada.